If we don't need an appendix, why is it there in the first place? (Thinkstock)
If we don't need an appendix, why is it there in the first place?
Lexile

You asked us, "If we don't need an appendix, why is it there in the first place?"
 
Just because you don't need your appendix, doesn't mean it's useless.
 
Now, for a long time people thought it was. Charles Darwin theorized the appendix was a shriveled, leftover organ used by early humans to help digest leaves. And that's been the predominant thinking up until recently.
 
But that's the great thing about science. Everyone thinks one thing and then someone else says, "Hey, I've a better explanation."
 
A team of researchers did just that. They wondered if it's not so much what the appendix does, but what it can hold.
 
See, our bodies are like an apartment building. And we have tenants living inside of us. These tenants are bacteria. In fact, there's about 10 times more bacteria in and on our bodies than in our actual cells.
 
But like all good tenants, they pay rent. The bacteria in our gut help us digest food and manufacture vitamins. They even help our immune system. That's right, bacteria in our bodies help our immune system fight other bacteria.
 
But sometimes invading bacteria get the best of our immune system and we get sick. Like, cholera sick or dysentery sick.  
 
Not be gross, but we're talking life-threatening, never-ending diarrhea sick.
 
In cases like this, all your good gut bacteria could be washed out. That is, unless they have a place to hunker down. Like the appendix.
 
Scientists theorize the appendix acts as a reserve, where good bacteria can hide until the illness is over. And then they re-emerge and repopulate the gut and go right back to helping us out.
 
Now you may not be that familiar with diseases like cholera or dysentery and that's because modern sewage systems have largely done away with them.
 
So in today's high tech world, you can live just fine without your appendix.
 
But you never know, maybe sometime in the future, another scientist will have a better explanation.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why are we able to live without an appendix today?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (283)
  • brandony-ver
    12/09/2015 - 01:31 p.m.

    We are able to live without an appendix because the modern day sewage systems keep us safe from the diseases that the appendix is actual ever used.

    • catherinej-for
      12/17/2015 - 10:20 a.m.

      I feel you because people think that there is no digestive organ that helps you in your life but there is so people need to take better care of their organs because they only life once and so do people

  • amegan-par
    12/09/2015 - 02:26 p.m.

    I'm so glad we have a appendix even though some people think they are just for digest leaves.

  • braedant-hor
    12/09/2015 - 02:43 p.m.

    I think the authors purpose in writing this article is to inform us why we have an appendix. I learned that the appendix is not completely useless. The appendix is a place to store good bacteria when a sickness occurs so that the good bacteria does not completely die off. Then the good bacteria is released when the illness is over so that it can repopulate and help regenerate without the problem of being killed by a stronger bacteria that is bad for the body.

  • maxr1-hor
    12/09/2015 - 02:54 p.m.

    I've always wondered why we have a appendix if at some point it might just blow up unexpectedly ;the author definitely chose a good subject because most of my friends thought the same thing I did. The authors purpose of writing this is to inform "wonderers" like myself why we have an appendix. I thought it was pretty cool to learn why we have an appendix, it also explained why your appendix blows up when its affected, its because there's so many bacteria in it.

  • teddyp-mcc
    12/09/2015 - 05:23 p.m.

    We are able to live without an appendix because scientists, researchers, and doctors have found that today's modern sewage systems in our body have "largely done away" diseases that have entered our body. Mainly, this is all because of our body growth and it having the idea of evolving, which creates more and modern sewage systems to let diseases out without the appendix to help. So, we live just fine.

  • giselleg-sch
    12/09/2015 - 05:30 p.m.

    2) This article is about people talking how the appendix works but now scientists might have found another explanation how the appendix works. A fact about this article is that you can live with or without your appendix. Another fact is your good gut bacteria can be washed out of your body. My last fact is that appendix can hide your good bacteria until the illness is over.

  • elenag-ver
    12/09/2015 - 05:39 p.m.

    We are able to live without an appendix today because it really doesent do anything. It is a small finger shaped pouch connected to your large intestine, in the lower right part of your belly or abdomen.The appendix really has no purpose. If a kid or adult needs to get it removed his or her body will work just fine after the operation.

  • kevinb-1-bar
    12/09/2015 - 06:26 p.m.

    We are able to live without an appendix because the appendix is just a hiding spot for the good bacteria when they are fighting the bad bacteria in your body. In the text it says "the appendix acts as a reserve," which means that it is just a place for the good bacteria to stay while you are invaded by other bacteria, or "sick." Once the bad bacteria is gone the good bacteria come out and starts helping you again. What I thought about this article, was that I thought it was cool considering I want to be a doctor when I grow up.

    • joliem-mor
      12/15/2015 - 08:03 p.m.

      I agree with you because our appendix is like a hiding place for the good bacteria.And when you feel better they come out

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